The diachronic study of language and its evolution.

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Germanic comparative grammars?

Can anyone recommend a good comparative grammar of the Germanic languages -- or, failing that, good historical grammars specifically for Old English and Old Norse? Ideally, what I want is a ...
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1answer
113 views

Use of forks/chopsticks and sound change?

Apparently [European] humans had an ape-like bite until relatively recently, with our top and bottom incisors aligned along their edges. With the invention of the fork around 250 years ago, our ...
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135 views

What did the Greeks and Romans believe about language relationships?

The ancient Greeks and Romans had no concept of historical linguistics or of the Indo-European language family. However, it would have been noticeable to anyone who spoke even a little of both Greek ...
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2answers
212 views

Are Old French and French mutually intelligible?

In Les visiteurs (The Visitors), two Frenchman from 1123 are transported to 1993. In the movie, the visitors from 1123 can understand the speech of the modern French people in 1993, and vice versa, ...
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2answers
233 views

Why many ancient languages are so complicated compared to many moderns one?

Many ancient languages have a structure more complex than the "respective" modern languages such that modern languages like English have a more simple structure, with no cases,genders or declinations, ...
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154 views

Latin, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and French number words from eleven to nineteen - history of a bizarre, inconsistent construction

Following Sklivvz's advice, I propose here a question I made in Italian Language. Because I am not sure how I should do this, I will just copy/paste the whole lot. Let's count in Latin from one to ...
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4answers
222 views

Did a “cave man-style” language ever exist?

I recently had a discussion with a friend about whether a "cave man-style" language was likely to have ever existed. You know, the stereotypical "Fire bad! Need hunt, go tree-place now!" sort of ...
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53 views

Wanderwort origins and the Indus Valley Civilization?

I have noticed that there seem to be many words that have travelled the globe due to trade, such as the word orange or rice, which have plausible origins in proto-Dravidian. Meanwhile, it is ...
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1answer
136 views

How did a logographic orthography like Chinese organize its word-stock before any type of phonetic notation?

Let's say you were to to pick up a dictionary and look up a word in Chinese before the advent of any type of phonetic notation system such as Pinyin or Bopomofo. How would words in that dictionary be ...
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2answers
109 views

The “affectee-subject HAVE” construction in English

English has a somewhat unusual construction exemplified by sentences like the following: He had his car stolen. He had his house repossessed. He's had three books published. These are different ...
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55 views

Writer/math student seeking an overview of linguistics. Help?

I am a math and statistics student/enthusiast as well as a fiction writer with cultivated interest in a few foreign languages. Linguistics has held appeal to me for many years, but I admit to having ...
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44 views

Grice's cooperative principless

Based on Pragmatics Approach, there is one of the principle that involves in communication. It is cooperative principle. This principle consists of 4 maxims. There are maxim of quality (Truthful), ...
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1answer
400 views

Missing Devanagari letters in Hindi

Sanskrit and Hindi both use the Devanagari script. It it interesting to note that there are letters which are used by only one of these languages and not the other. Used only in Sanskrit are letters ...
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1answer
180 views

How do we know that Ancient Greek didn't have ejectives?

Ancient Greek had a three way contrast between voiced, unvoiced, and aspirated stops. It seems to be assumed that the unvoiced stops were pulmonic, but how do we know this? A fact that may or may not ...
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1answer
118 views

Linguistics, a discipline or a field?

This is a two-fold level questions. Question about linguistics from the view point of linguistics. I am interested whether linguistics is a field of science/research or is it a discipline? The next ...
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2answers
405 views

Why is English spelling so inconsistent?

English spelling is in many respects not phonetic and there is often no one-to-one mapping between spelling and pronunication. E.g. 'a' is /ej/ or /ey/ instead of /a/ as in Albert 'c' is /s/ not ...
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1answer
115 views

Word list sought based on corpus of 19th century scientific English

I am currently working on an M.Phil thesis which is focusing on topic modelling 19th century journals. The journals in question are science, literature and antiquities based. I have extracted the ...
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1answer
218 views

In which modern-day country's borders did Arabic start?

We had a discussion going in the Travel Chat about where the Arabic language originated (assuming borders had stayed the same throughout history). Some websites have suggested Egypt, others Yemen, ...
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4answers
350 views

Are there countries in the world whose names differ in different languages, apart from Germany?

Germany is called with different names in different languages, as a result of the different tribes who populated it through time, who originated the names. A comprehensive reference for this is in the ...
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3answers
78 views

What is the most ancient form of Armenian verb 'to be'?

The infinitive form of the verb in Eastern Armenian (provided there are infinitives) is a suppletive 'linEl'. I am surprised to notice its resemblance to most Finno-Ugric words of similar meaning, ...
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1answer
120 views

What is the history of Eastern and Western Armenian dialects?

Are there any regular phonetical correspondences between grammatical patterns of both dialects? Which one is thought to be the 'real' Armenian? When and how did the dialects split? Is Western ...
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1answer
364 views

What are those languages with no one-to-one correspondence between sound and written symbol?

English is not one of those, while German should be. Italian is one of those and French is not. So it seems that this feature does not depend on the linguistic similarity and historical relation among ...
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1answer
537 views

Why did English stop using thou?

In Shakespearean English, thou/thee/thy/thine were used for second person singular, and you/your/yours were used for second person plural. In modern English, you is used for both singular and plural. ...
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2answers
219 views

On the idea that Classical Chinese may *not* be direct ancestor of modern Chinese languages

It's known that Literary Chinese (or Classical; wényán ), the language of historical Chinese texts, differs completely from modern Mandarin as well as from other spoken Chinese languages, not only in ...
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3answers
308 views

When were there the most languages?

A friend recently asked me this simple and fascinating question. At what point in history were there the largest number of human languages? Although a really precise answer needs a clear ...
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1answer
190 views

Are there any other examples of words being borrowed via their written forms only (or written forms causing reevaluations of spoken forms)?

Chinese dialects, Korean, and Japanese all use Chinese characters in their writing systems, at least in some capacity. Chinese trivially so, Japanese through Kanji, and Korean through Hanja. As to be ...
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3answers
443 views

Origin of articles in European languages

I read that PIE, Latin, old English, and even old German did not use articles, yet current English, German and Romance languages all use articles. Is it true that articles developed in all these ...
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195 views

Would a “Proto-World” language have any long-lasting effect on today's languages?

To what extent would a so-called "Proto-World" language (if there ever was such a thing) have affected the languages spoken today? How greatly would such a language have guided the future state of ...
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278 views

Is there a diagram showing the history of sound changes from Latin to the Romance languages?

We have had a number of questions about sound changes, asking for the history of specific changes. See this one, for example: asking about the change from Latin benedictionem to French beneiçon. ...
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62 views

Particular verbal inflection classes in “The Proclamation of Henry III”

I'm reading a document about "The Proclamation of Henry III", in which the text is presented and a short commentary and glossary follow. I'm interested in the survival of some of the distinct verbal ...
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1answer
178 views

How did 'cocodrilo' originate from 'crocodile'?

The English word crocodile seems to originate from the Latin crocodīlus and Ancient Greek κροκόδιλος. Indeed it has ended up very similar in several modern languages: German (Krokodile), Russian ...
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1answer
277 views

What are the job opportunities in linguistics? [closed]

I like learning new languages so I am curious in getting a degree in linguistics. What kind of jobs are available as a linguist? What are the opportunities available in this field? From what I am ...
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1answer
61 views

How much evidence of written language is needed to accurately define English in a particular period of history?

In older variations of English in history, how much evidence of written language samples is needed to accurately define the grammar and usage of that period? For example, if we want to define how ...
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1answer
877 views

Why do we call some countries a different name than the people of that country?

For example, in English we say Germany, Japan, and China but they say Deutschland, Nihon, and Zhongguo respectively. If we change the names because they are difficult to say or spell outside of their ...
6
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1answer
173 views

What similarities are there between Nicaraguan (ISN) and American (ASL) Sign Language?

I frequently travel to Nicaragua and interact with a group of children who are learning ISN (Nicaraguan Sign Language) at their school. I have no experience with ASL (other than a friend teaching me a ...
5
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1answer
211 views

History of the verb positioning in German

In German, the word order is SVO (or V2, to be precise) in main clauses, while in subordinate clauses have the finite verb in final position; there is some discussion of the word order in "German is ...
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2answers
178 views

How time of birth and death of a languages are estimated?

Languages are birth or die gradually. How time of birth and death of a languages (e.g. Avestan, Parthian, Median, ...) are estimated? In a broader sense when we say that a new languages was birthed ...
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306 views

Third-person singular suffix [eth] in Middle English

Related: Grammaticalization of third person singular -s in English According to responses to this question, there was a dichotomy between northern -s and southern -th in Middle English. What I am ...
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269 views

Where does the “t” in some words like “night” and “fight” come from?

The question is on the words with a word-final "ght", such as in "fight" and "wight", which are quite mysterious, I hope to know the connections among these "ght" words. The question comes from the ...
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1answer
118 views

Correct Alexamenos Graffito Translation

I am researching the "Alexamenos Graffito" from Rome and the various opinions of what the correct translation of the Greek inscription should be. I know some believe it is "Alexamenos worships (his) ...
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1answer
236 views

How do SOV languages develop agreement affixes on verb?

According to WALS, most languages using SOV as basic order of subject, object and verb have some kind of personal agreement markers. As far as I know, these affixes rise by grammaticalization of ...
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2answers
225 views

How much time does it take to create/fork a new language?

I wonder if there exists any summary or paper analysing the time it takes for the creation of a new language (with all reservations concerning definitions of languages et dialects etc.)? Take, for ...
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2answers
454 views

Do atonal languages have a tonal ancestor?

One of the distinctions among languages is the tonal/atonal distinction. Dediu & Ladd (2007) suggest that this split between tonal and atonal languages is related to a recent mutation in the ASPM ...
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51 views

Is there a way to measure culture's impact on a language?

I was wondering if there were any current models that measured the effect of cultural shifts in a given language. Specifically, is there consistent/model-able lag between major cultural events and how ...
7
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1answer
179 views

What is the sound law to describe the etymology of “helix” and “vulva”?

What confused me is the transition from "w" in PIE *wel- to "h" in E. helix . And what's the sound law applied to the word E. "vulva",which has the change from "w" to "v"? helix "a spiral ...
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0answers
135 views

What is the current understanding of the classification of indigenous American languages?

Inspired by this recent question on Greenberg's classification of African languages, I wonder about the current state of classification of the American languages. (By "American" I mean the indigenous ...
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395 views

What is the current understanding of Greenberg's classification of African languages?

In a reply to the criticism of his classification of the languages of the Americas, Greenberg (1989: 107) characterized his work on African languages as follows: [...] my classification is clearly ...
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1answer
306 views

Diachronic devoicing of initial lenis plosives in English

I get the impression that in the "classical Received Pronunciation" of English during phonetician Jones's era, the lenis plosives /b/, /d/, /g/ (and probably the affricate /dʒ/ as well) in initial ...
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351 views

What is the “first language”?

I vaguely remember reading an article about a book that talked about what the "first language" would have consisted of, but I can't seem to recall what the book was or what the language was called. ...
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2answers
864 views

What language came before Proto-Indo-European?

What is the Proto-Proto-Indo-European?